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Tiny Bubbles

Richard Willett's one-act play focuses on two gay men who try to escape life through the movies.

Timothy Elliott, Jay Alvarez and Matthew Jellison in Tiny Bubbles
(© Richard Termine)
Richard Willett's new one-act play, Tiny Bubbles at Medicine Show Theatre, skips often between past and present, and even between comedy and drama, as it looks at the friendship of two gay men, Danny McKenna (Jay Alvarez) and Kirk Wesson (Tim Elliott) who break their monotonous work weeks with bottomless martinis and reenactments of scenes from old movies. While the work, directed by Eliza Beckwith, has strong performances and some witty dialogue, it ultimately suffers from a lack of focus.

When Kirk announces he's heading to AA, Danny begins having increasingly vivid hallucinations of a boozier time when lunch was always accompanied by several drinks. Willett occasionally uses this juxtaposition to make an interesting comment on our relation to the past.

The first scene opens in Danny and Kirk's apartment in Denver, Colorado, but their exchanges about being hung-over and not drinking enough water could be the complaints of any roommates across the country. Alvarez imbues his lines with a zany precision that brings to mind Tony Randall in the TV version of The Odd Couple.

And when he voices his desire to be "in seclusion" like Maria from The Sound of Music, it says volumes about his character. There's a palpable sadness that's felt as he recalls lines from films with more passion than anything from his own life.

Meanwhile, in a clunky bit of exposition (delivered with as much grace as possible by Elliott) we learn that Danny formed his attachment to these films as a child to escape the reality of his alcoholic parents. There's also more than a little Catholic guilt kicking around in his mind. When he's not pretending he's a Mad Men- like ad exec, he's a nun in a strict convent in the 1960s, repressing his feelings and relishing in his punishment.

It's hard to know how to take these scenes; they don't have the campiness (or humor) of Charles Busch, but they also don't feel particularly dramatic, so they end up hanging in a theatrical limbo that stalls the pace of the play.

It's also unfortunate that some of Willett's best lines get lost in this ambivalence. For example, Danny has one of the best early on in the play, when he's espousing a nostalgia for drinking and solitude. "God, I love the cocktail hour. I mean, talk about a fabulous concept. It's almost as good as seclusion."